Indexed on: 12 Feb '10Published on: 12 Feb '10Published in: Langmuir
Film thinning experiments have been conducted with aqueous films between two air phases in a thin film pressure balance. The films are free of added surfactant but simple NaCl electrolyte is added in some experiments. Initially the experiments begin with a comparatively large volume of water in a cylindrical capillary tube a few millimeters in diameter, and by withdrawing water from the center of the tube the two bounding menisci are drawn together at a prescribed rate. This models two air bubbles approaching at a controlled speed. In pure water, the results show three regimes of behavior depending on the approach speed; at slow speed (<1 microm/s) it is possible to form a flat film of pure water, approximately 100 nm thick, that is stabilized indefinitely by disjoining pressure due to repulsive double-layer interactions between naturally charged air/water interfaces. The data are consistent with a surface potential of -57 mV on the bubble surfaces. At intermediate approach speed (approximately 1-150 microm/s), the films are transiently stable due to hydrodynamic drainage effects, and bubble coalescence is delayed by approximately 10-100 s. At approach speeds greater than approximately 150 microm/s, the hydrodynamic resistance appears to become negligible, and the bubbles coalesce without any measurable delay. Explanations for these observations are presented that take into account Derjaguin-Landau-Verwey-Overbeek and Marangoni effects entering through disjoining pressure, surface mobility, and hydrodynamic flow regimes in thin film drainage. In particular, it is argued that the dramatic reduction in hydrodynamic resistance is a transition from viscosity-controlled drainage to inertia-controlled drainage associated with a change from immobile to mobile air/water interfaces on increasing the speed of approach of two bubbles. A simple model is developed that accounts for the boundaries between different film stability or coalescence regimes. Predictions of the model are consistent with the data, and the effects of adding electrolyte can be explained. In particular, addition of electrolyte at high concentration inhibits the near-instantaneous coalescence phenomenon, thereby contributing to increased foam film stability at high approach speeds, as reported in previous literature. This work highlights the significance of bubble approach speed as well as electrolyte concentration in affecting bubble coalescence.